Transforming The Valley hosts clothing drive to help transitioning locals

WATCH NOW: Trans Closet makes shopping for clothes and toiletries in a judgment-free environment possible.

Four times per year, transgender individuals can shop, without judgment, at the Transforming The Valley mobile closet. On Sunday, Transforming The Valley hosted one of these quarterly clothing events, offering up everything necessary to stock a closet — from bras and shoes, to suits and jackets.

The “Transform the Season” event was one that organizers host every time there’s a change of season.

“It is very trans-affirming. No one’s going to be staring at you, which is huge,” said Jason Soules, a co-chair and founder of Transforming the Valley, which is a Chippewa Valley outreach, education and advocacy organization.

The financial implications of shopping as a transgender person are no small thing, Soules said.

“You have to keep that in mind. Everything costs so much. You don’t even realize to wear a chest binder and all these other things are expensive. Just shoes, underwear, deodorant, men’s body wash, whatever it might be. Those things add up,” Soules said.

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One of the goals for Soules and his team is to make the process of shopping for clothing, toiletries and makeup less stressful for trans individuals, and the Transforming the Valley pop-up store provides a safe place where people can try on items.

This Sunday event actually had more clothes than were needed — a good sign that community support is on the rise, Soules said.

“There were so many donations it was probably a fire hazard. We were overwhelmed in a good way,” said Brit Bushman, a co-chair for Transforming the Valley.

Sunday’s event showed locals that they matter, that they belong. And it allowed them to shop for themselves, in a way some have never experienced.

“All I want is clothes, a razor, maybe some makeup. I want to feel like I can afford to be me,” said Jo Schmidt.

“Shopping for chest-binders, for bras, makeup, shoes and clothes can be high-octane, high-stress. When you’re shopping for the first time as a transgender person, in a store for men’s or women’s clothes, it can be really stressful,” said Soules. “We wanted to make it, a lot less anxiety. And a lot less expensive.”

For trans people, doing makeup is different. Even shaving is different, Bushman said.

“You have to hide different things. You have to change it in different ways for each person,” they said. “That’s why we do what we do. We want to help a person be their best self, feel comfortable walking out the door each day. We do clothing alterations, makeup and hair tutorials. We want to do it all.”

Along with the quarterly and seasonal events, Transforming the Valley is hosting weekly support meetings.

“It’s been really great for people to get comfortable in a very safe and private environment,” Soules said.

The organization has been invited to create a more permanent and larger home at a church in Chippewa Falls.

“We want you to be able to come in whenever you see fit, to buy clothes and such and just shop like you would on any day at a regular store. That’s the hope right now. We’re so blessed to be welcomed to expand here in the Chippewa Valley, actually just to be welcomed,” Bushman said.

All items and services are free, but donations of new and gently used clothing and monetary donations are accepted.

“What we really need are unopened toiletries. And shoes. Especially extra wide and big sizes,” Bushman said. “And money. Money is great, too. It pays for the services we offer.”

If you would like to make a donation, officials ask that you contact them through the Transforming the Valley website.

Jason Soules talks about transitioning and loving life as a transgender man. When he started the transitioning process he was teaching in Eau Claire and said the staff and students supported the decision. His family and friends have only made the lengthy process easier.

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